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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Did God Need Rest?

One problem with the Bible is the artificial verse and chapter divisions that we run across. I say "artificial" because no Biblical author actually included these divisions in their writing. We added them MUCH later. But we have come to trust these markers for the end and beginning of thoughts.

Nowhere is this LESS helpful than in Genesis 1 & 2. The creation account appears to end at the conclusion of chapter 1, except for the fact that one day gets left out! The whole creation account is neatly wrapped up in 2:4- "This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth." We may like the idea that creation ends with us (humanity), but the story actually concludes with day seven. Day seven is described this way- creation was complete (vs. 1), and since he was finished, God rested (vs.2). And then God blesses that day and calls it holy.

Hmm. Interesting. This is one of those passages where if we take it at face value, we run into some problems. At face value, this passage suggests that God perhaps NEEDED rest. He had worked hard for 6 days and so he had to take a break a do a whole lot of nothing to recuperate. Some of you grew up in environments heavily influenced by this idea. We work hard for 6 days, and so we need a day of rest. And by "rest", many traditions have meant, "do absolutely nothing fun, creative, athletic, or enjoyable." Some grew up learning to dread Sunday because it meant a day of utter boredom, other than perhaps the few enjoyable moments we had in the back of church drawing pictures with a friend. God needed to rest, and so do we, at least that's what we're told.

But what if God's rest is much more than that? Here are some thoughts from Genesis 2 and God's rest: (this is a MUCH larger topic in Scripture, but I'm going to try and and limit my discussion to Genesis)

1) Nothing about God's nature, as revealed in Scripture, suggests that He gets tired. In fact, we find quite the opposite. So if God didn't rest because He was tired, then we have to look deeper.

2) Genesis 1 & 2 are written with a very clear pattern: God creates something, it comes to be, God calls it good, and the day ends. For 6 straight days, this goes on. Until day 7, when God creates nothing and the day DOESN'T END. This is a powerful suggestion that what occurs on Day 7 continues.

3) God creates a special day that is more than good- it is holy, blessed. That means it's set apart as something different than the other 6. On the last day of the week, God rested- not because He was tired but because He was marking a day that would look and feel different.

4) God invites us into that unique day. I hesitate to call it "rest" because I think that gives us the wrong image. What I find significant is that God stopped all WORK. Anything that had been part of his work for 6 days did not happen on the 7th. And I think that's God's invitation to us- a day that is set apart and unique because it is unlike anything in our week. The day is a break from everything that keeps us on the treadmill of life and causes us to lose sight of anything that is holy, sacred, and divine. Do we have to lay on the couch all day? No! We can and should party! We should exercise. (unless we think of that as work) We should get together with friends. We should worship. We should watch sunsets and throw water balloons with our kids. We should celebrate that for 6 days we pour our lives into doing significant work things, but on one day, we don't have to contribute a darn thing to the world. We just get to enjoy it!

Now doesn't that sound like fun? I think of the 7th day- Sabbath- as a day to rediscover who I really am.

And here's a thought that always stops me- if God, who needed no rest, deliberatly took time for it, what does that say about me, who rarely takes time to rest, even though I really do need it? This is one way that we could begin to trust God's plan- we might not get why one day should be different, but we can look at God and say, "If that's what you did and if that's what you want me to do, I'll do it."

May you discover the joy of Sabbath this week in a new and wonderful way,

Nick

1 comment:

Melanee said...

Thank-you for your insights on the Sabbath, as I've pondered this question quite a bit myself and I've come to a similar conclusion about the notion of "rest." I see the Sabbath as a day which is "set apart" from the other days. A day which in its essence, is qualitatively different, or a "rest" from every other day of the week. A holy day, a day for families and friends. A day of service and wholesome togetherness.

I don't think there should be a specific list of do's and don'ts. Some people feel close to God through nature and exercise, and some through quiet reading, or visiting others and so forth. I do think that there should be a extra level of reverence on the Sabbath however, and refraining from the exchange of money unless for an emergency.

For me, the Sabbath is a day that I set aside things of the world, like shopping, certain kinds of music, housework, and so forth. My motto is to keep a "singleness of heart," on the Sabbath in a more focused worship of the Savior, and a greater willingness to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. To close the day with a renewed humility and dedication to God for the coming week.